Walter Williams’ unflagging contribution to the defense of the principles of individual liberty and the free market economy was also a contribution to my effort to surmount academic obstacles to my own defense of those principles.
After more than a decade of writing essays in defense of the principles of individualism and critical of the collectivist assumptions of the civil rights movement, I was delighted to learn that from their academic posts Walter and Thomas Sowell were relentlessly making the case for economic freedom and debunking fallacies about race relations, black history and capitalism.
As I made my way through the hostile intellectual terrain of higher education, both men and Jay A. Parker of The Lincoln Institute were the mainstays of my effort to attain and maintain academic legitimacy without sacrificing my philosophical perspective of reason, knowledge, morality and practical action. I was most gratified by their support when black faculty at Harvard University objected to my being hired by the Kennedy School of Government. Walter did not suffer fools and were it not for my objection he would have publicized my plight in the national media. In support of my research, he was instrumental in my being awarded a much needed John M. Olin Foundation Faculty Fellowship.
Although I am not a conservative, I am honored to be named with Walter and Tom Sowell in academic theses, journal articles and anthologies on “black conservatives.” Their critical analyses of the welfare state have certainly informed my sociological perspective and teaching. In mainstream liberal and progressive analyses of race relations and black history literature our defense of free market capitalism, personal responsibility and individual rights are denigrated and dismissed as “out of step with the Black majority.” Our critiques of policies such as affirmative action and the social deterministic assumptions of multiculturalism are erroneously characterized as echoing what are assumed to be “the fundamentally racist arguments of white conservatives.” Walter’s support and endorsement of my ideas are treasured blessings, and I won’t forget his most recent and last words to me: “Keep the faith.” In so doing, I will do my part to keep the vigorous spirit of Walter Williams alive.